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Top>Opinion>Significance of Educational Assistance in the Risk Society


Masayoshi Koga

Masayoshi Koga [Profile]

Significance of Educational Assistance in the Risk Society

Masayoshi Koga
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Educational sociology

Introduction: Visiting the disaster areas

The Great East Japan Earthquake deprived many people of their precious lives. Miyagi University of Education, my former place of work, is located in Sendai, where many of my acquaintances escaped danger, however the safety of some of the graduates and their families remains unknown. When I visited the earthquake-stricken areas the other day, and gazed at the completely changed scenery, I was deeply saddened by the loss of the places where I had precious memories of conducting activities, including educational surveys in Onagawa Town and assistance for disabled children in Minamisanriku Town. Even under such circumstances, I learned that there were a number of teachers, students, and local residents struggling to advance restoration at this time, and I had the opportunity to participate in volunteer activities for assistance with teaching materials and equipment organized by the association of high school student councils in Osaki City. I pray that those who died may rest in peace, and fervently hope that full support is provided to all the earthquake survivors.

Learning from local field work

It was in the early summer of 2002 that I was commissioned by a social education manager in a coastal area to conduct a survey of the current living conditions of children as a project subsidized by the National Campaign for Youth Development of the Cabinet Office. In such cases, it is vital to create survey sheets based on deliberate discussions with local leaders. That is because interviews often shed light on problems with local children. Opinions offered during these discussions were impressive, revealing that although household incomes increased due to subsidies, unprecedented images of children were noticeable, such as those who possessed their own computers, who had never experienced swimming in clothes in the sea, and who went to a private tutoring school in a neighboring city during the night. After many visits for almost a year, I deeply felt changes in local communities and the sense of crisis of the parents' generation, and in the end, we held a symposium with a panel composed of children as well as a survey briefing session that was packed, with hundreds of townspeople attending. This experience taught me the importance of field work practices, in other words, the importance of learning from the voice of the local people.

Ethnography at schools that face educational difficulties

I specialize in educational sociology, and have placed importance on researching juvenile problems from the viewpoint of those in question. A method called ethnography (see the book which I edited, For Learners of Qualitative Research Methods [Shitsuteki Chosaho Wo Manabu Hito No Tameni]) is used for onsite observations and interviews. For example, at high schools facing educational difficulties (bottom-level schools) in Tokyo and Miyagi, I had interviews with approximately 100 students at that time about their school experiences, and conducted detailed follow-up surveys on how they chose their career paths and what kind of social life they had over five years after graduation. In line with the common description of this era as one with three million NEETs as it is known in Japan (people unmarried and economically dependent on their parents) and freeters (irregular workers), a majority of these graduates were working in irregular and severe labor working environments, and beyond my expectations, many of them were acutely aware of the direct connection between their lack of learning during high school days and lack of experience in the working world with the difficulties they experienced in the workplace, such as customer service abilities and practical work skills.

Need for citizenship education

By analyzing research cases, I hope to probe into the modality of education that allows youth to escape from the uncertain social structure with risks and anxiety of being easily excluded, develops citizenship, and allows for second chances. Please refer to my comment published in the Interview on the Modality of Future High School Education [Kongo No Koko Kyoiku No Arikata Ni Kansuru Intabyu] with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology last year (website of MECSST: Window). Because of our high expectations in terms of access to higher education, school groups with ambiguous educational missions called schools with general courses expanded, which rendered it difficult for the citizenship education urging the youth to participate in the society to be provided. Amid the widened education gap, however, the formation of academic abilities has been neglected with home and regional environments being unfavorable, and the number of youth who are incapable of attaining resources to develop a social relationship has been increasing. Today, educational assistance is sought as a safety net through schools.

Experience of support research on social withdrawal

Onsite research taught me the importance of social bonds, which lie at the core of juvenile problems. The field survey on social withdrawal commissioned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was significant. Although this issue traditionally tended to be understood as a medical domain, its close relationship with educational challenges-including job maladjustment, failure in job hunting or entrance exams, and truancy-has emerged. In front of a youth with interpersonal anxiety pleading, "I don't want anybody to interfere in my life," his/her family becomes obsessed with the sense of negligence by looking back on the life history as well as with efforts to explore assistance available at the time. Interviews often reveal that they are stuck in terms of both their wishes that things will be better and their fears that the social relationship will be further impaired. It is necessary not only to identify the causes of the problem, but also to seek possible support through instructive caring not to have the family isolated.

Treasuring bonds through educational assistance

For youth who have difficulties, practical education is vital so that they can be sure of mutual bonds in a broad range of areas. In order to overcome the coldness of the unconnected society and build relationships of caring and sharing, cooperation with various educational institutions and development assistance facilities including NPOs and families, as well as long-term assistance are required. It is critical to look for what we can do now for those in question, before we find ourselves freezing up in facing such a complex problem. It is therefore a vital task for ethnographers to contribute to the collection of basic information and accurate analysis (see my book, Ethnography of [ No Esunogurafi]). It seems to me that there are parallels in this approach with the lessons to learn from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Masayoshi Koga
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Educational sociology
Professor Koga was born in Tokyo in 1957. He graduated from College of Human Sciences, the Second Cluster of Colleges, the University of Tsukuba in 1980.
He completed the Master's Program in Education, and obtained a Master of Education degree from the University of Tsukuba in 1983.
He left the Doctoral Program in Education upon completing course requirements at the University of Tsukuba in 1985.
After teaching as a lecturer at Akita Keizaihoka University, and as an associate professor at Miyagi University of Education, he has been a professor in the Department of Letters at Chuo University since 2003.
Professor Koga's current research project is to analyze education practices and explore potentials of education at high schools and self-support facilities including juvenile reformatories and self-support private schools for the youths, which embrace young people with difficulties, and therefore he conducts participant observational research at local educational sites over an extended period of time.
His major publications include Ethnography of <Teaching> [<Oshierukoto> No Esunogurafi] (Kanekoshobo, 2001) and For Learners of Qualitative Research Methods [Shitsuteki Chosaho Wo Manabu Hito No Tameni] (Sekaishisosha, 2008).